Google Maps mashups are everywhere. Actually mashups of all kinds are promulgating the Internet at dizzying rates. There are mashups of music, real estate, auction listings, social networking sites, etc. Tools to make it easier to develop mashups, such as Ning, are becoming available; helping to bring mashup madness to the masses.
So what's a mashup? My definition: simply, two or more sources of information combined (or mashed) together to produce an output that is either of greater value than the individual sources or something entirely new.
Mashups transform technology platforms into something useful; which is what makes them so cool. There are several mashups out there that could prove useful for cyclists. Here is my roundup:
Route calculators: There is a class of mashups I'll call route calculators. Don't let the simplistic name fool you, however, as these have several uses. First, you can use these tools to plot out a route that you have ridden and find out how many miles you have traveled. In addition, the tools can be used to plot a route in advance and share it with others. While most of the applications are aimed at runners, cyclists may still find them useful for route mapping. Example applications:
Gmaps Pedometer - One of the more well known Google Maps examples. Just recently added the ability to export maps into .gpx GPS file format.
MapMyRun - A copy of the Gmaps Pedometer, but if you are a runner also you will like the workout calculator that interacts with the data you plot on the map.
WalkJogRun - In addition to a route plotter, this site aggregates all routes created and saved by the members of the site community.
Run-o-Matic Running Routes - The Houston Area Road Runners Association hosts this route maker which aggregates running routes for the U.S. and Canada.
GPS Plotting: Ultimately this class of mashups may prove most useful to mountain bikers given our propensity for riding where no map markings exist. For now, most of these applications are fairly rudimentary, but there is a lot of potential. Example applications:
Nick Fessel's Burlington VT Bike Ride - Fessel provides instructions on how he used a third party program to extract the gps data from his Garmin eTrex, put it into a text file, and used the Google Maps API to make the map.
Magnalox - This GPS logging service looks to have a lot of potential. The service bills itself as a "new kind of travelogue," and aims to coordinate your text descriptions, photos, and links with your GPS log data. Right now most of the mountain bike trails logged are in Europe or other parts of the world.
Single-point locators: These mashups are typically showing single data points spread across a region or area. They both serve to show the density of particular destinations as well as help to provide the user with directions to those destinations. Example applications:
CommunityWalk's Mountain Bike Trail Locations - CommunityWalk is another community based site that allows users to create mapping communities around an area of interest. In this example, mostly New Jersey mountain bike destinations have been plotted.
Delaware Bicycle Crash Map - This map shows the sites of bicycle accidents near Dewey Beach. The map is annotated as well as animated and is designed to make a visual impact on the viewer as to the number of crashes.
Colorado Bike Shops - This community supported mashup displays the locations of member bike shops around the U.S. This example shows those in Colorado. Most of the other states are heavily under represented in this database.
While Google Maps is the clear leader in mapping mashups, Yahoo and Microsoft have also made API's more accessible to developers for their own mashup machinations. An early example of a cycling mashup made with Yahoo Maps can be found from the Yahoo developers page. Yahoo describes the mashup as follows:
Bike maps require back roads and out-of-the-way rest stops. Often the roads don't have names, just state route numbers. And often, there is no address for a rest stop - they can be just wide spots beside the road. Elena did a Mashup that works around all those issues. Here are two more routes for Rockingham, NC and Weddington, NC.
I think after seeing a few of these mashups you will see that we have barely scratched the surface with the kinds of tools and applications that may benefit cyclists in the future. I've got probably a hundred ideas of how to improve on some of these things if only I could program. Here's hoping that there are a few technical types out there whose minds have been sparked to build some new cycling specific applications with these mashup tools.
So what are your ideas? How can these tools be better for cyclists? Have you seen any other mashups that should be on the list? Any other non google mashups for bikers?